Year 2010 has been one of the most happening years for cricket. Some incredible records were made and broken, new benchmarks were set, new talents broke into the scene, some great players walked into the sunset and some real murky moments rocked the game. Yet it was one man who stole the show - Sachin Tendulkar, the world's leading run-getter, who rolled back the years to bat like the champion he has always been. His magnificent batting form and an unsavoury match-fixing scandal swirling around Pakistan provided the highs and lows for cricket in 2010. As we brace ourselves for the ICC World Cup in 2011, we take a quick look at the year gone by.
The master tore South Africa's pace attack to shreds in February to hit one-day cricket's first double-century, and took the same form into the traditional five-day format.
In the 14 Tests he played, Tendulkar rattled up 1,562 runs at an amazing average of 78.10 with seven centuries, including two double centuries against Sri Lanka and Australia. In the process, he also scripted history after he became the first ever batsman to score 50 centuries in Test cricket. He achieved the feat during the first Test against South Africa in Centurion.
Tendulkar was also adjudged the player of the year at the International Cricket Council's annual awards function, the only surprise being he had not won the honour before in his record-shattering career.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni's India won eight of their 14 Tests this year, losing three, to reaffirm their status as the number one side in the ICC's official rankings ahead of second-placed South Africa. Interestingly, they lost two of their Tests against the Proteas. They finished the year with a remarkable 87-run win in the second Test against South Africa, their first ever win in Durban and second on the South African soil.
In the limited-overs internationals, India won 17 out of 27 and finished second in the ICC ODI rankings. In the Twenty20 Internationals, India were nowhere near their Test or ODI form. They were ousted from the World T20 after they lost their last Super Eights match to Sri Lanka by five wickets.
Pakistani cricket hit a new low when the then captain Salman Butt, and fast bowlers Mohammad Asif and teenager Mohammad Amir, were accused of spot-fixing during a tour of England earlier this year.
British tabloid, The News of the World, claimed that Amir and Asif bowled deliberate no-balls during the Oval Test, with Butt apparently orchestrating the alleged fix.
The trio's future in the sport will be decided in January when they appear before the ICC's three-man anti-corruption tribunal in the Qatari capital of Doha.
Pakistan, forced to play abroad because of security concerns in their troubled nation, lost six of their 10 Tests this year, but recorded two impressive wins against Australia and England.
Earlier in the year, Pakistan had banned three former captains - Younus Khan, Mohammad Yousuf and Shoaib Malik - after a wretched tour of Australia where they failed to win a single match and Shahid Afridi was fined for an incredible ball-biting incident in Perth.
And in November wicketkeeper Zulqarnain Haider fled Dubai, where Pakistan were playing South Africa, for London saying his life was under threat from 'fixers'.
England won a first major title by beating Australia in the final of the World Twenty20 tournament in the Caribbean. England made history in Barbados as they won their first ever ICC tournament. After initial hiccups in the Group stage, England made it to the next level and from there on it was a journey unstoppable.
In the final, chasing 148 runs, Craig Kieswetter and Kevin Pietersen played exceptional knocks to guide their side through. Pietersen was also adjudged the 'Man of the Tournament' for his all-round contribution to England's march to the title win.
It hasn't been a great year for the former World Champions Australia. Once the World No. 1, Australia dropped to fourth in the ICC rankings as 2010 drew to a close. They played 12 Tests this year and won 6. They lost 5 Tests, which include three-Test series against India and two Tests in the Ashes, which cost them the urn.
However, in One-dayers they managed to stay atop the rankings. Out of 25 ODIs, they won 16 and lost 8. But what Australia really lost was that 'aura of invincibility', which they had built in the last two decades.
Australia will take a long, hard look at their cricketing future after England's Ashes triumph and just may find it was one of their perceived strengths that let them down over the last six weeks.
The long decline of the Australia team from the side that put England to the sword 5-0 four years ago to the squad that failed to regain the Ashes on home soil has been well documented.
England, however, used their resources well to retain the urn after a gap of 25 years.
Mohammad Ashraful-led Bangladesh bagged the inaugural Twenty20 title at the Asian Games in China in November, giving their nation its first ever gold medal at the continental extravaganza.
But Bangladesh continued to flounder at the Test level, losing all their seven matches this year.
They have been beaten in 59 of the 68 Tests played so far since gaining full status in 2000, winning just three games. However, they swept the one-day series against New Zealand 4-0 in October.
Split-innings ODIs: Cricket Australia approved a controversial 45-over, split innings one-day format for trial in the National Cup. The new format included 45 overs per team with split-innings of 20 and 25 overs, a maximum of 12 overs by any one bowler and 10 wickets per team and 12 players per team (teams could bat any 11 of the 12 and field any 11 of the 12) among other changes. The format allowed a maximum of two bouncers per over and a new ball from each end at the start of the innings. There were not any replacement new balls or power plays. As for the fielding restrictions, only two fielders were allowed outside the circle between the first and fifth over and the 21st to 25th overs, while four were allowed between the sixth and 20th over and 26th and 45th over. The players gave it thumbs down while the ICC kept an eye on it!
Test championship: The ICC has approved the creation of a Test Championship which will be played from 2013. It will be played in a league context and the top four teams would go into a play-off every four years, from 2013.
Pink Ball: The Marylebone Cricket Club, which formulates the laws for the governing body, experimented with a pink ball in a bid to probe the viability of day/night Tests. The MCC played Durham under flood lights in Abu Dhabi. Earlier, the Pink Ball was used during the Futures League matches in Australia but they failed to impress the players and umpires.
Sri Lanka's Muttiah Muralitharan, 38, bowed out of Test cricket in July with a record 800 wickets from 133 matches, but says he is available for the one-day World Cup in February-April.
The prolific off-spinner, whose bent-arm action caused heartburn in the cricket world even after the ICC cleared him, had 67 five-wicket hauls and claimed 10 wickets in a match 22 times.
England's Ashes-winning all-rounder Andrew Flintoff and New Zealand fast bowler Shane Bond also gave up their struggles with injury by retiring from all cricket while Australia quick Brett Lee quit Tests.
But the most notable retirement in 2010 was of South Africa's Makhaya Ntini, the first black African to represent his country, whose 13-year international career saw a fast bowler blessed with exceptional stamina more than justify his place on cricket grounds alone.
Every year some young talents break into the scene. While some fizzle out, some leave their mark with whatever chance they get and you know they are here to stay. Some of year 2010's promising players are: Steven Finn (England pacer), R Ashwin (Indian spinner), Kane Williamson (New Zealand), Wahab Riaz (Pakistan pacer) and Cheteshwar Pujara (Indian batsman).
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